What is the Pope doing during the pandemic?

Pope Francis sends a virtual hug after delivering his weekly Angelus prayer via video at the Vatican
Pope Francis sends a virtual hug after delivering his weekly Angelus prayer via video at the Vatican, March 15, 2020. Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS

“I have my areas of selfishness. On Tuesdays, my confessor comes, and I take care of things there.”

That was one of the answers Pope Francis gave to Austen Ivereigh in an exclusive interview recorded for The Tablet – his first for a UK publication. The whole interview is published in this week’s edition of The Tablet. Although the interview touches different subjects about which the Pope spoke several times one still finds news insights and emphasis.

Of particular interest is the answer to the first question Ivereigh put: How is the Pope living during this crisis.

My concern is people

Francis was most sincere in his answer. Besides referring to his “areas of selfishness” and weekly confession he said that he is praying more and thinking of people.

“That’s what concerns me: people. Thinking of people anoints me, it does me good, it takes me out of my self-preoccupation.”

The Pope said that his major concern that “comes through my prayer – is how to accompany and be closer to the people of God.”

His daily Mass at 7.00a.m. at Santa Martha is being streamed live.

During the interview, Pope Francis described this “as a time of great uncertainty. It’s a time for inventing, for creativity.”

He also described the new working arrangements at the Curia where shifts have been organised so that the measures ordered by the health authorities are obeyed. He was quick to add:

“Everyone works in his office or from his room, using technology. Everyone is working; there are no idlers here.”

They speak like Hitler

During the extensive interview the Pope spoke of the “politics of the throwaway culture.” He criticised  the world of finance as it now seems normal to sacrifice people from the beginning till the end of life.

Pope Francis referred to the rise of right wing poltics in Europe saying that Hitler’s speeches “were not so different from some of the speeches of a few European politicians now.”

See the poor

Once more he emphasized the need that we “see the poor”. He repeated the anecdote he mentioned during a recent Skype interview with Spanish journalists. In the midst of the quarantine, Francis said, a Roman policeman said to a man: “You can’t be on the street, go home.” The response was: “I have no home. I live in the street.”

“To discover such a large number of people who are on the margins … And we don’t see them, because poverty is bashful. They are there but we don’t see them: they have become part of the landscape; they are things.”

One could feel strong emotions oozing out of the Pope’s heart while he said those words.

Saints next door

Pope Francis mentioned “the saints who live next door”.

“They are heroes: doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers – all performing their duty so that society can continue functioning. How many doctors and nurses have died! How many religious sisters have died! All serving …”

During the interview Pope Francis also answered questions about the hypocracy of several political leaders, the future of the Church, the need to slow down and the meaning of Easter during coronavirus.

The whole interview can be accessed from The Tablet at  https://www.thetablet.co.uk/features/2/17845/pope-francis-says-pandemic-can-be-a-place-of-conversion-